I never really thought about this phrase of Psalm 23. I just kind of skipped over it. But I am encouraged that my Shepherd anoints my head with oil.
Do you know what oil does? It makes things flow. Whenever there is friction or something gets stuck, oil is used to lubricate it and make it more fluid. The Shepherd’s anointing makes things go smoother.
Oil is a symbol in the Bible of God’s Spirit and the qualities that are spirit-given, like love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Our Shepherd anoints us with the Holy Spirit.
The Shepherd heals the hurting.
A shepherd anointed a sheep with oil for a few reasons. First, it would repel the flies that bugged him. It would give the sheep relief so they could graze and rest in peace. Second, sheep would at times injure their heads by butting against things, even other sheep. The oil was used to help cleanse and soothe the injury to enhance healing. Third, as male sheep would challenge each other, they would ram their heads into one another. This could result in serious injury, including death. Oil was often applied to lessen the impact and allow their heads to slide off one another.
The Holy Spirit will help us with the things that irritate us, hurt us, and the conflict between believers.
The Shepherd appoints his workers.
David understood the double meaning of anointing. As a shepherd, he knew why the sheep were anointed. But as a King, he had been anointed by Samuel to be Israel’s king. This anointing showed the world that he was chosen by God to be king. It could be that David is alluding to the fact that the Shepherd anoints His sheep with a task to serve Him. He commissions them with a task. In the Old Testament, only kings and prophets were anointed. In fact, the term Messiah means “anointed one.”
In the New Testament, each follower of Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit, who has come to be with us and in us (John 14:17). Each one of us is a royal priest, not only in dignity but in our responsibility to carry out the tasks God has assigned us.
David’s father didn’t think enough of him to even bring him when Samuel came to examine his boys. You (and others) may think like David’s dad thought of him – you are not good enough. How could God use someone like you? But God chose you. If there were a Christian draft, you would be his “top pick”.
It’s important to recognize that there can be pause between the anointing and the appointing. It was 22 years after David was anointed that He became king. Don’t despise the hidden place of preparation and waiting. This place and season of preparation is a gift and we need to see it as such. We tend to focus on the what we are doing, while God is trying to form the who we are. We are excited about what we will do, while God focuses on who we will become. He makes us wait so that who we are can sustain what we have been asked to do. Although the season of preparation is difficult remember that who you are becoming while you’re waiting is infinitely more important than what you’re waiting for. God is always using your current season to prepare you for what He’s prepared for you in a future season. God is preparing you for His purposes just as much as He’s preparing a purpose for you.
The Shepherd blesses his followers.
Some people read Psalm 23 a bit different at this point. Rather than a shepherd & sheep, some people think David has changed metaphors to a host and guest. In Bible times a guest at a dinner would be greeted with a kiss, foot washing, and an anointing. To have a meal with someone was to enter into a deeper relationship, it was a symbol of friendship. The anointing was to let the guest know they were special to the host. They were his favorite.
When you chose to follow Jesus, you were anointed with the Holy Spirit. You are special to Him and you will be blessed because of your unique relationship with Jesus. This is the first time this particular Hebrew word is translated as ‘anoint’ in the Old Testament. It actually means “to make prosperous” or literally “to make fat.” God wants to show His favor abundantly to you and give you more than you need.
The Shepherd is giving you personal attention and care. “He anoints my head with oil”. The Good Shepherd isn’t just passing out oil to the crowd. He is giving YOU personal attention. He’s caring for your personal needs.
Like stubborn sheep, we struggle, kick and protest when the Shepherd puts His hand on us for this purpose. Even if for our own good, we rebel and refuse to have Him help us when we need it. We are stiff-necked sheep and were it not for our Shepherd’s continual compassion and concern for us, most of us would be beyond hope or help.
So what can we do?
- Be still and receive your anointing.
- Submit to God’s call. What is God calling you to do?
- Be patient as God unfolds His plan. What you learn now will help you better serve in the future.
- Renew the anointing. It’s interesting to read what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 92:10, “I shall be anointed with fresh oil.” Do you need a fresh anointing?
A poor man in West Texas in 1926 made a living on a very poor sheep farm around Odessa. Ira Yates was so poor that he contemplated bankruptcy, allowing the bank to repossess his farm. One day a survey crew from an oil company asked for permission to drill for oil on his property. The contract stated that he was to receive every eighth barrel if any oil was found. At 1,115 feet they hit a gusher. The well produced 80,000 barrels of oil a day! Wells soon followed that could produce twice that capacity. Even thirty years later government surveys showed wells with a capacity for 125,000 barrels a day. It proved to be one of the richest veins of oil ever found on the North American continent, topping at 41 million barrels in 1929. At $1.19 per barrel in 1929, this is $133,280 per day (today’s equivalent is $1,759,213 per day). Many Christians are living their life completely unaware of the anointing of the Holy Spirit in their life. They are content to live in spiritual poverty when spiritual blessing is God’s desire in their life.